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Soldiers Arrested Over Army Deaths In Armenia, Karabakh

YEREVAN -- Military officials in Yerevan reported today three arrests in the latest army shootings in the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh and in Armenia, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

According to official reports, one shooting spree occurred November 19 at an army unit deployed southeast of the disputed territory of Karabakh and left four soldiers dead and four others injured.

The Karabakh Armenian military identified the dead and wounded soldiers but gave no details of the incident, saying only it was not caused by enemy fire.

An official at the Armenian Defense Ministry's Investigative Department told RFE/RL that one of the soldiers of the unit has been arrested on suspicion of shooting fellow conscripts. The official said his identity will not be disclosed "in the interests of the investigation."

It is not yet clear if the suspect is one of the four soldiers who was wounded in the shootout. Those four are being treated at a military hospital in Stepanakert, Karabakh's main city. Military authorities there did not allow journalists to interview the injured.

In the other incident, the Armenian Defense Ministry said two men have been arrested in connection with the killing of an army sergeant serving at a military base in the northeastern Armenian district of Chambarak, which borders Azerbaijan. Robert Avetisian was found dead at the base on November 18.

The shootings occurred about four months after a similar incident reported from another Karabakh-Armenian frontline detachment. One officer and five soldiers were killed as a result.

Military investigators say one of those servicemen gunned down the others before taking his own life. His motive is unclear. Several Karabakh Armenian officers were dismissed and demoted following the incident.

The department refused to identify the suspects or specify whether they, too, are soldiers serving in that unit.

The latest shootings are a serious blow to Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian's assurances that the Armenian military has stepped up its fight against hazing and other abuses within its ranks. The military has been under fire over a recent spate of noncombat deaths and other violent incidents.

Dozens of officers and soldiers have been arrested or fired since August in connection with those cases.